Auction of Stegosaurus skeletons likely to raise millions – and criticism

The largest stegosaurus skeleton ever found is expected to fetch millions of dollars at an auction in New York next week, likely raising objections from paleontologists.

The fossil, estimated to be about 150 million years old, went on display at Sotheby's on Wednesday and will remain there until its auction on July 17.

Sotheby's Stegosaurus Dinosaur
A stegosaurus skeleton goes on display at Sotheby's New York in Manhattan on July 10, 2024.

Pamela Smith / AP


The gigantic skeleton, named Apex, stands 3.35 metres tall and nearly 8.25 metres long and is considered 'the most complete and best preserved' stegosaur specimen of its size. 254 fossil bones out of a total of approximately 319 have been found.

Such sales have become more common in recent years, criticism from paleontologistswho believe that these finds should be preserved in museums or other public spaces and not sold to private bidders.

“It's a very, very rare animal. To find one of this size and completeness is phenomenal,” Cassandra Hatton, head of science and popular culture at Sotheby's, told AFP.

The auction house estimates Apex's value at $4-6 million, but that's still less than Stan, the world's most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, which sold for a record $31.8 million in 2020.

Apex was discovered in May 2022 on the private property of paleontologist Jason Cooper. The auction house says it worked with Cooper to “document the entire process, from discovery and excavation to restoration, preparation and assembly,” to ensure the “highest standards and transparency.”

In 2022, auction house Christie's had to retrieve a T-rex skeleton a few days before the auction in Hong Kong due to doubts about its authenticity.

Stegosaurus skeletons can be seen all over the world, but according to Sotheby's, Apex is 30 percent larger than Sophie, the most complete stegosaurus ever exhibited, which is housed in the Natural History Museum in London.

The debate over dinosaur fossil auctions is one I've “heard a lot,” Hatton said. “When you have a scientifically important specimen, the museums usually show up and find donors to bid on their behalf or they bid themselves.”

“Most of the people I work with donate or lend specimens to museums. They understand the meaning and importance of these specimens.”

According to Sotheby's, Cooper has already donated fossils to museums around the world.

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